Conversations For Transformation: Essays Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

Conversations For Transformation

Essays By Laurence Platt

Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

And More




More Than Being With The World

Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen, St Helena, California, USA

March 20, 2018

"God's greatest work wasn't creating the universe: it was disappearing into it afterwards." ... 
"Until what is significant is created by you, you aren't living your life: you are living some inherited life." ... 
"Just like the front and the back of the hand, being and action are distinct yet inseparable." ... 
"Take a look at life as it is lived and see for yourself that the world only moves for you when you act." ... 
This essay, More Than Being With The World, is the twelfth in a dozen written Out-Here:
  1. Out Here
  2. Out Here II: Out-Here
  3. Out-Here III
  4. Transforming Life Itself: A Completely Started Inquiry
  5. Being And Acting Out-Here: Presence Of Self Revisited
  6. Hiking In A Painting
  7. Out-Here IV: Clearing For Life
  8. Something Bigger Than Oneself II
  9. To A Fault
  10. Where The Action Is
  11. Step Outside Your Head: A Call To Action
  12. More Than Being With The World
in that order.

It is also the sequel to Inside.

I am indebted to Simon and Garfunkel who contributed material for this conversation.




There's a particular conversation Werner is brilliant at leading. OK sorry, my bad: there's a vast plethora  of conversations Werner's brilliant at leading. Just one  of them is the one I'd like to flesh out in this essay. It's the one in which he unerringly, relentlessly  gets people to give up their deadening positions about where they are  for themselves (in other words, what occurs for them as their "I"  ie their "me")  being located inside  (if you could see me now, I'm pointing at my head).

In a burst of astonished, discontiguous wonder and awe akin to enlightenment, people in this conversation with Werner, get that where they really  are, is out-here  - not inside. His is more than a merely unusual  assertion: it's revolutionary. Watch: the world is out-here; life as-it's-lived  is out-here; the entire experience which makes us human in the first place, is out-here. In contradistinction, all there is inside, is machinery embedded in hamburger. It's not an intuitive observation. At first, it may even land as quite unnatural, even disconcerting. And its treatises aren't found on your parents' bookshelves along with Emily Dickinson's and Robert Frost's.

"That's exactly  what I've always wanted" my friend the yogi  said when I walked him through it. I call him Tom Trotakam. It's only my nickname for him (dunt esk:  it's a long story). "I've always wanted to get out of myself"  (that's how he articulated what "being out-here" speaks for him, being brutally curious and setting himself miles apart from the usual meditators' injunct to "go within")  "and just be  with the world. Moreover" he went on, "I've always wanted to be with the world exactly the way it is"  ("... and exactly the way it isn't  ..." I chimed in). "Yes exactly  exactly" (and he did say "exactly" twice - it's not a typo) "that's perfect Zen to me" he said.

"Well said, Tom! Very good" I replied, "The thing I'd like you to consider is that's only the beginning.". "What do you mean 'it's only the beginning'?"  he asked. I turned to him. "Your ability to be out-here with the world (which is to say your ability to be with and  to accept the world) exactly the way it is, and exactly the way it isn't, is only the beginning. It's just the first step. Then, when you're being out-here, you can really live  your life, in point of fact for the first time. Until then, when you tell the truth about it, all you've been living is some kind of inherited  life. To be out-here, is to be truly alive. It's more than merely being with the the world.".

Word to Tom Trotakam and the other beautiful cosmic yogis: being out-here isn't a state of consciousness  or a place to get to, although centuries of conceptualized tradition may have stylized it and driven it that way. No, it's actually quite undramatic - bland, in fact. Being out-here is being with the world authentically ie having it show up in the space of who you really are as a human being. But it's more than being with the world in the way you would be being with the world, if you were doing, say, a walking meditation (you can be "inside" while doing a walking meditation, and yet have a sense of being with the world). It's being out-here where life as-it's-lived  occurs, where you can take full tilt boogie  action(s) for what's next  (when you're out-here, being and action are inseparable - yet they remain distinct).

Arguably, that's what it really  means to live our full potential and be extraordinary as human beings. But wait: shouldn't we designate living our full potential as human beings, as the ordinary  way to be? And shouldn't it be that if we ever did not  live our full potential as human beings, that it would be out of the ordinary  ie that it would be extra-ordinary? I mean, how extraordinary is it (think about this for a moment) that a human being should not  live a life that's full, whole, and complete? If that's so, then it wouldn't be the first time we got something like this bass-ackwards, would it? (... jus' sayin' ...).

<aside>

Listen (semantics alert!): it's arguably waaay  more rigorous to refer to living our full "possibility"  as human beings, than it is to colloquially refer to living our full "potential"  as human beings.

Now there's nothing wrong with the word "potential" as it's used colloquially. Look: it's powerful enough to underscore the United States' Army's classic "Be All You Can Be"  campaign inter alia. The thing is this: through no fault of its own, "potential" is now unwittingly fraught with so much glommed-on baggage, courtesy the well-intentioned so-called "Human Potential  Movement", as to render it misleading at best, and inaccurate at worst.

Associating Werner's work with (ie including Werner's work in) the human potential movement, is a demonstration of innocent enough loose talk - not to mention being unclear on the concept. If anything (let's tighten this up now) Werner's work lays bare the context  in which the entire human potential movement  shows up (which by the way, is the same context in which the United States' Army shows up too - obviously).

One more thing: "potential" suggests living up to that which we already have  (closed future), whereas "possibility" suggests generating that which we, at this moment, are not ... and could  be (wide-open future).

So, with all of that inquired into, examined, and now up on the mat, referring to "being in action out-here where life as-it's-lived occurs" as living our full "potential"  as human beings, is good enough for jazz.

<un-aside>

Tom Trotakam stopped, looked around, then slowly lifted his arms over his head, smiled, and started doing a little jig - slowly at first, then kicking his feet up, going faster and faster like a whirling dervish. He laughed, a closed-eyed laugh, a reveling-in-the-such-ness-of-it-all-the-thus-ness-of-it-all laugh. "I can't believe I missed this" he said, shaking his head in disbelief, smiling at the same time. I said "Perhaps until now Tom, when you got up on stage (so to speak) you looked inside  for both your script and  your audience. And in so doing, you weren't really in the play at all, yes? But then you discovered being out-here like a possibility. And it fundamentally altered your sense of where you are as a human being. So you stood, front and center stage, really being  with your audience, probably for the first time really - yes, a step in the right direction, that's for sure ... but you weren't yet acting, and the world only moves for you when you act.".

He heard me. He got it. Now he was snapping his fingers, and dancing* as if his life depended on it, totally uninhibited. "Wow! He just granted his imprisoned Zorba the Greek  an unqualified pardon, a no-strings-attached  release. He's free, he's really out-here  now" I smiled to myself, "ya gotta love the guy.".


* In an earlier essay in this internet series of essays, Joshû, a Zen monk, didn't dance like Tom Trotakam. Yet what he did was equally discontiguously free: he took off his sandals, placed them on his head, and walked out.

Read Joshû's experience in Conversations For Transformation essay #365: Sandals On My Head, the second essay in an open group on Zen, by clicking here.


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